A happy new year for 450 council staff

The city council will be increasing the pay of 450 of its staff next month. But last week’s final decision to introduce a “living wage” wasn’t unanimous.

Five councillors wanted a delay.

Nicola Young moved a motion to delay the January start date till July so that there could be consultation. She said

We need to know exactly what we’re doing and its effect. Is the living wage the most effective way to eliminate poverty?

She was supported by Simon Woolf who, the DomPost reported, said there had to be a chance for ratepayers to contribute to the debate. And by Jo Coughlan who said the council move would set a precedent and they had to be sure it was done right. And by Andy Foster who said the living wage model was flawed.

But when the delaying motion was put to a vote, it was defeated by eight votes to five.

Nicola Young continued her opposition. On talkback radio the next morning she was, in her words, “discussing WCC’s implementation of Living Wage without consultation or a cost benefit analysis.”

Her concerns were echoed in a DomPost editorial, which said the living wage would be “no panacea.” Letters to the editor in this morning’s edition show that readers supported the council move and were not in sympathy with the editorial writer. And word on the streets seems to indicate general popularity for the council’s decision, though it will be making waves for other city employers such as Te Papa who continue to pay less than $18.40 an hour.

At Thursday’s council meeting, veteran councillor Helene Ritchie cautioned against a commitment to some of the council’s “big ideas.” She wanted preliminary costings before the council made a decision on eight “growth priorities.” But her colleagues voted to continue investigating them, though several – including a film museum and a longer airport runway – are not council projects. Councillor Ritchie said, realistically, there was no guarantee there would be any revenue for the council from such priorities. She was out-voted by councillors who said the priorities needed to be investigated for the good of the city’s economy. There was, however, no commitment – not yet – for them to be become a cost for ratepayers to pay.

And so the council’s working year came to an end.



  1. Pollyanna, 23. December 2013, 9:09

    Well what a laugh! I cannot remember ratepayers being consulted when they debated their proposed pay packets in November. Some of them had to take a pay drop when they voted to cut extra pay for roles on CCO boards. Mind you, the lowest paid 7 only get $80,490, 2 get $83,101, 3 $89,101 and the Deputy $99,580 and the Mayor $158,300….. Not to be sneezed at for a “part time” job, not forgetting long holiday breaks and free car parking and most of them have another income.

  2. Nora, 23. December 2013, 9:34

    Only 13 voted. Who were the two that didnt?

  3. Esjay, 27. December 2013, 11:37

    Since when did the council become a social welfare organisation? The far reaching impact of this action by council has not been determined yet it voted to proceed with a Living Wage. Will this pay rise increase productivity? What has council undertaken to reduce 30% labour turnover? The question remains whether councillors will reject the pay increase passed onto them annually by the Remuneration Authority. Any one willing to wager?

  4. CC, 27. December 2013, 14:26

    Esjay: what a confused comment. Not sure what the ‘social welfare organisation’ comment refers to as of course it is – just ask the business sector beneficiaries like Willis Bond, Prime Properties, Infratil etc. along with the less demanding, like those who are in need of social housing. As well as that, most reasonable ratepayers expect the WCC to be a responsible employer that more fairly remunerates its lowest paid staff. As for your other dog-whistle points from the Chamber of Commerce songsheet, one can observe that there is no problem keeping highly paid executive staff – they even have to be bought out to shift them on. It therefore stands to reason that the lowest paid will have an incentive to stay on and improve their skills if they don’t have to work additional jobs to feed themselves and their families. On the matter of councillors’ remuneration, the moderate to lucrative perks were done away with last year. Notably, the Mayor doesn’t pocket the additional $45 000 or so per year that the former Mayor and Deputy Mayor used to get as Board Members of WIAL.

  5. Esjay, 27. December 2013, 19:06

    CC: “The Living Wage” has been a political mandate of the Mayor. No public consultation process has been entered into. The flow-on effect on parity to other council employees has not been investigated, in fact Cnr Andy Foster speculated on ZB talkback that the overall cost could well reach the $4 million mark. So why has the pay increase been rushed without due process? No, I’m not referring to councillor perks. It’s the Remuneration Authority who make recommendations for councillors’ pay increase, who in turn inevitably approve it. The Mayor, as a Director of WIAL, has publicly stated that she can advocate for the runway extension, but cannot vote on it during council process. Surely this is a conflict of interest regardless of how her director’s fees are absorbed.

  6. CC, 28. December 2013, 8:02

    Esjay: Sounds like you suffer from “parasite syndrome”, the affliction of the well off who want cheap rates based on subsidies accrued by underpaying the worker ants of our city. Quoting the unqualified speculation of Andy Foster, and assuming the low waged should have their pay rates determined in consultation with you, also indicates a lack of common sense and an over-inflated sense of self-importance. If the knife is to be taken to anything, then Council should look at the covert subsidies that go to the CCOs and the private sector and the highly-inflated executive salaries which do not seem to fall within your “accountability” criteria. These far exceed the relatively small cost of small wage increases for those who unquestionably earn them.

  7. Esjay, 28. December 2013, 11:46

    CC: Perhaps your pocket has a limitless bottom. It may be an idea for you to study the proposals of the Draft Annual Plan and note how the “good ideas” have been incorporated into the proposed rate increase of 2.5%. Then of course there is the expenditure for “leaky home” syndrome. And who can leave out the expenditure for earthquake proofing, the sum of which is only an estimate. If the council has its way, then an estimated $200 million might well lower the level of your pocket even further for the proposed airport runway extension. In the meantime, the city’s stormwater and sewage systems continue to decay as no on can see them.
    By the way, each of us has to work for a living. If we do not enjoy the rate of pay or conditions, we look elsewhere.

  8. CC, 28. December 2013, 18:28

    Esjay: your last comment has what to do with paying a living wage, one that enables families to do marginally more than just survive???

  9. Albert Tatlock, 3. January 2014, 10:16

    Councils can pay people more, but dressing it up as a ‘living wage’ is a joke. Have you ever heard of dead people on a non-living wage? Obviously not, but CWB wants to be Welly’s Santa handing out ratepayers’ money to abide by social standards that have no official recognition.

    WCC should stick to what it is supposed to be doing. Running core services as cost-effectively and efficiently as it can. Let Central Govt determine the wage thresholds that councils and businesses need to abide by.

    Thanks to WCC, I’ll now have less money in my pocket to spend in cafes and shops to keep people employed.

  10. CC, 3. January 2014, 12:52

    Albert – if you can buy a cup of coffee a week for less than the rates increase to enable a ‘living wage’ council employee to contemplate going out for one coffee a month, you would be damned lucky. My guess is that the employee would still stay home as the likely increase in energy charges this month would preclude their indulgence in such luxury. Anyway, chances are that you will get a parking ticket from a new council employed parking warden. That would cost you many times the cost of your coffee. Better still, the wage increase will have been ‘earned’ as the fine would not have had the triple-dip ticket clipping that went on when the service was contracted out – negative rates increase eh?

  11. Albert Tatlock, 4. January 2014, 9:33

    CC – My new year resolution, already partly implemented, is to invest in a bottle of instant coffee and make my own at 11am and talk to my cat for ten minutes. I’m not going to hobble into the Wellington CBD for $4+ flat white anymore as I can save up to $20 a week and $1,000 a year with my own cup of instant and this should cover CWB’s ‘living wage’ bill, the $1 million dollars for the airport runway business case, and the blah … And I never park in Wellington since my 1972 Rover 3.5litre got towed with my distressed Labrador sitting on the back seat.

    I’m switching to Mercury as they have promised to cut my ‘leccy’ bill for 18 months.

    Scrimping and saving … it’s a battle to keep on living in Welly for us forgotten citizens.


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